Thursday, July 20, 2006

Howland-Imboden Project - Live at the Baked Potato (2003)

Keith Howland has been Chicago's guitarist since 1995, Tris Imboden has been their drummer since 1990. Not content to merely exist within the confines of the touring nostalgia act they're now a part of, Howland and Imboden opted to release an album of instrumental jazz/rock fusion in 2002 and followed up that release with this live album in 2003.

Showing themselves as far more than the mere "hired guns" they are for Chicago, Howland and Imboden really stretch out and show what they're capable of. The chemistry between the two of them is unmistakable (after the seven tours they'd performed together on with Chicago, one would certainly hope they'd found some level of chemistry).

While the music is relaxed and generally unoffensive, it also shows a much different side to both musicians than the musical karaoke they've been doing for their "day jobs" for the past several years. Where Chicago is their pay-check, this album shows a labour of love and it also demonstrates that these guys are more than just Terry Kath and Danny Seraphine "substitutes."

Much of the material on this CD, all original compositions by Howland and Imboden, would not sound out of place on a Larry Carlton or Lee Ritenour album, at the same time it has enough individuality and spunk to be very much the product of Keith and Tris.

Stand-out tracks include the hauntingly emotive Philly Blue (the most frequent victim of my repeat button), the upbeat Cement Mixer, and the laidback Fallin' in a Hole but the album as a whole is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.


Lee Ann said...

Thank you for stopping over. I hope you will come by more often.

David Amulet said...

I like seeing projects like this. Members of bands that are getting stale (or, as you point out here, playing music from twenty years before these guys joined the band) need to show what they really can do on their own. I know Michael Anthony has done some side projects because he's the least appeciated member of Van Halen but a solid bassist.

Of course, sometimes it starts that way and leads down a dark road (Phil Collins).

-- david

Sar said...

Sometimes great material comes from a select few musicans branching off. Like Anderson Buford Wakeman and Howe branching off of Yes. Well I like it. :)

Charlie said...

When I hear projects such as this one it makes what Chicago has become even sadder. May they rest in peace!

David Amulet said...

I'm debating whether to go see Chicago when they come by my area in a month or so. I would liek to hear the old songs, but I'm not sure I can stomach them done (in part) by musicians who were toddlers when the band was in its prime!

-- david

Anonymous said...

Just reinforcing the other comments here... I've been a long time Chicago fan (of their original music). I was disillusioned by their music in the 80's. Ever since Terry Kath died in 1978 I've figured Chicago's replacement guitarists were just that, sidemen who weren't very talented, but could handle the job of filling in the power ballads as needed with predictable mindless riffs - because that's the way the band utilized or under-utilized them.

But when I recently heard a couple of previews of the 2014 new Chicago release, I was amazed by the work of Keith Howland. So it prompted me to look him up, found his web site and his solo work, and I was blown away! He's awesome. While I was pleased that after being with the band for 20 years, they finally let him show his talent a bit, I was frustrated, wondering why in the world, they hadn't let him out before. 1993's Stone of Sisyphus was a welcome return to the aesthetic and passion of Chicago's original music. 1995's Night & Day was also refreshing that they decided to re-explore big band jazz ("Caravan," Sing. Sing, Sing," and "Blues In The Night," weren't just great "big-band" songs, they were simply great regular Chicago songs).

But then after Keith joined in 95, no new music for over 10 years. Chicago XXX, while it had 4 or 5 good tracks, the rest of the album was a disappointment, and they failed to showcase Keith! WHY? Another 8 year lapse until XXXVI is released.

The query is for the last 20 years all the band members, current and former, have been putting out great solo albums (often with other Chicago personnel!). So if they can do it on their own, why can't they do it as Chicago? What's wrong with this band?? Are all the band members simply using Chicago as a paycheck, and if they're going to work hard to make great new music, they're only going to apply it to their own solo label??? If so, then it's a waste of a great, huge, strong brand, and it just using the fans who are hoping against hope that Chicago will make music the way they used to. I don't want to be used, and I don't want to waste my time, energy, passion and money on this band if they aren't going to deliver, but only string me along (sure I could just follow the solo albums, but I want to hear it from Chicago).

Most any of Keith's solo instrumental work (not a fan of his vocals) could be laid down on a new Chicago album, and be the inspiration for the rest of the album. His work is reminiscent of Chicago's early albums. I'd like to hear Keith's work be featured as 1/3 of each of Chicago's albums.

I've heard various band members state that the music business has change so much over the last 10 years, that they don't have to cow-tow to record company suites anymore, and they can go back to making music the way they did in the beginning. Well then let's do it! Prove it! Why don't we hear more music like they produced on their first 7 albums??? I'd also like to hear more influence from SOS, Night&Day, Robert Lamm's Subtlety & Passion, jazz, blues, funk, soul, and a lot of instrumental work from all the instruments including Keith's guitar.